Exercise isn't only about grueling workouts. Round up some friends for a pickup game
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The more vigorously you exercise your body, the more fuel it needs and the more calories it consumes. And the best kind of exercise is an activity you enjoy, because you'll stick with it over the long haul. "There's a lot of different things people can do to increase their activity that's not going to the gym, paying for a membership, getting on a treadmill, and lifting weights," says Stephen Herrmann, a physical activity expert at the University of Kansas's Energy Balance Lab in Lawrence. Like playing a couple of favorite sports.
The key is to get your heart rate up; all else equal, the harder you play the more calories you'll burn. A moderate-intensity sport, like baseball, will have you breathing hard and sweating a bit, but you'll still be able to talk. Playing Ultimate Frisbee or some other high-intensity sport, you'll really feel your heart pumping and won't be able to talk except in bursts. Either level is good for your health, bestowing on the virtuous the well-known benefits of weight loss, heart health (by strengthening the heart muscle), and diabetes prevention (through weight loss and improved blood-sugar control). Unfortunately, sports alone are rarely enough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says most adults should get at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity activity (like brisk walking) each week plus a couple days of muscle-strengthening activities. If you're looking to lose some serious weight, you'll want to ratchet up the effort (and get on a healthy diet).
Sure, you can get hurt playing sports—it keeps sports medicine docs busy these days—but you can hurt yourself doing lots of things that are much less fun, and you can play a sport with friends and family and let your competitive side come out. Consider these 10 sports, ordered from least to most by their ability to burn calories in an hour of playtime. (If you don't win, so what? You've run up your health score.)